language. culture. travel. science. books. geekiness. ekb.
Maintaining the imagination does not seem too difficult as long as one resists cheap commercial substitutes. Resistance is a useful skill, and no is a wonderful word.

—Amy Leach

In order to marvel, humans beings — and perhaps peoples — have to wake up. Science is a way of sending them off to sleep again.

Zum Staunen muß der Mensch — und vielleicht Völker — aufwachen. Die Wissenschaft ist ein Mittel um ihn wieder einzuschla̎fern.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, 1930

[Translation, Georg Henrik von Wright]

Something really happens to people who go into the north — they become at least aware of the creative opportunity which the physical fact of the country represents and…come to measure their own work and life against that rather staggering creative possibility: they become, in effect, philosophers.

—Glenn Gould


 GHOSTs are display surfaces made of malleable materials that can change into and retain arbitrary shapes so as to display output from the system or afford new actions. At the same time, GHOSTs allow users to deform, touch, or otherwise manipulate the shape of their display surface to provide input to the system. ”

The above is from the GHOST project (generic, highly-organic shape-changing interfaces), a collaboration between University of Copenhagen, University of Bristol, University of Lancaster, and University of Eindhoven. 

One of the more interesting interface things I’ve heard of in a while. 

Newton, for example, “revolutionized” physics and the so-called natural sciences by reducing the physical universe to a linear mathematical equation. Descartes did the same thing with culture. John Locke did it with politics, and Adam Smith did it with economics. Each one of these “thinkers” took a piece of the spirituality of human existence and converted it into a code, an abstraction. They picked up where Christianity ended; they “secularized” Christian religion, as the “scholars” like to say—and in doing so they made Europe more able and ready to act as an expansionist culture. Each of these intellectual revolutions served to abstract the European mentality even further, to remove the wonderful complexity and spirituality from the universe and replace it with a logical sequence: one, two, three, Answer!

Russell Means, 1980

From I Am Not A Leader, Mother Jones

Talent hits a target no one else can hit; genius hits a target no one else can see.

Arthur Schopenhauer

[i cannot verify this; it is from an article in scientific american mind, on genius. but i liked it, so here it is.]

What is a designer, anyway?

Helen Walter’s piece on the MacArthur Fellows awards calls out what she sees as a lack of designers. She refers to the missing designers as ‘designers in a traditional sense’.

I look at the list and see designers. Maurice Lim Miller designing social services, and Benoît Rolland, designing bows for stringed instruments. 

This brings up the greater question of who or what is a designer, something fraught with tension in the past few years. In most cases, one who could be called a designer has no formal requirements to attain this title, there is no test to pass, no board exams, no education, even, required. 

Why do we even care who calls themselves a designer? The title is ubiquitious, self-applied, and, in many cases, meaningless. Before there were designers, there were engineers, philosophers, and artists. Somewhere in the past few years, in particular, being a designer was a self-designated title that signaled creativity, innovation, and a style and type of work. 

Designers can be classified in so many fields, from architects to typographers, to software designers, fashion designers, interior designers, to graphic designers. In the industry I sometimes work in, software design, the ‘designer’ is often a graphic designer, and in a world where experience and interaction are so very important, this is often the designer thought of as ‘making it pretty’ at the end of the process rather than the crucial keystone player. 

I remember my father telling me of his 20s, designing rockets and moon mission things, there were no designers. They worked in groups of engineers, and each to his own skills, to produce the products and code that made these dreams possible.  The end result was something we, today, would consider designed. Yet, no designers. 

Today, it often seems we care more to know who is a designer, and what is design, the emergence of design thinking, differentiated, by designers and pundits, as crucially different than the thinking of engineers and architects, as two examples, that the conversations were just that.  A great deal of talking and discussing with less and less output. 

Designers may well not be necessary, as a title. What matters is the output, the work, the vision, the dream. The group of 2012 fellows can call themselves what they may, and there may be backlash, but I’d argue that the inclusion of a ‘traditional’ designer does no value in and of itself.

To an industry struggling to understand what it is, design would be best served to produce amazing products and services and worry less about titles. Then and only then will representation of ‘genius’ be seen in a broader sense. 

On considering the future

Reading Gigaom's article a few weeks back on Circa, I was struck by CEO Ben Huh’s statement: 

"Lengthy articles are very time intensive and attention intensive, and they are tough to consume on the phone."


“Once you start to think of news as happening in these ‘atomic units,’ rather than as things that need to be wrapped up and shipped in an article, you can start to do different and unique things such as let people “follow” a story, provide different context based on what a reader has consumed before, bridge from one point to a story that provides background, and so on.” 

My first thought was: I am happy I will be dead by the time this diminished thought world holds the majority of the people. Yes, a bit extreme, but it’s my mind and it does these things. 

I wonder, though, as a CEO, or an entrepreneur, this is the world you want to live in? this is who you want to become? 

I wish CEOs and other product and service creators would think less about the money and more about the future of the world. What world they want to live in, and what world they want their children to live in. 

[tenth epoch]
Nations will know, that they cannot become conquerors without losing their freedom; that perpetual confederations are the only means of maintaining their independance; that their object should be security, and not power. By degrees commercial prejudices will die away; a false mercantile interest will lose the terrible power of imbuing the earth with blood, and of ruining nations under the idea of enriching them. As the people of different countries will at last be drawn into closer intimacy, by the principles of politics and morality, as each, for its own advantage, will invite foreigners to an equal participation of the benefits which it may have derived either from nature or its own industry, all the causes which produce, envenom, and perpetuate national animosities, will one by one disappear, and will no more furnish to warlike insanity either fuel or pretext.